Plan Commission Sends Airport Improvement List to Council, Gives Negative Recommendation on 14-Story Apartment Complex

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Michelle Phillips

MIDDLETON–Community members showed up in person, by phone and via the Internet for an April 14 public hearing during the Middleton Plan Commission meeting.

The hearing was to discuss a resolution concerning improvements at the Middleton Airport/Morey Field over the next five years. The plan is required by the Board of Aeronautics (BOA), and must be submitted every six years. Middleton last updated the plan in 2014. 

One point of contention with residents had been the language in the original resolution, which included use of eminent domain for land acquisition. City planner and zoning administrator Mark Opitz stated that the wording was simply boilerplate language provided by the BOA, and because none of the plans call for land acquisition, the airport commission removed it from the final resolution, which it passed unanimously at the commission’s Feb 8. meeting.

Opitz gave the following list of improvements:

• Prepare and undertake wildlife site visit/assessment

• Install VHF radio coverage to ground (RCO)

• Acquire snow removal equipment

• Purchase terminal building

• Replace and upgrade runway lighting, including Precision Approach Path Indicators (PASI) and Runway End Light (REILS)

• Sealcoat and crackfill airport pavements

• Clear and maintain runway approaches as stated in Transportation Administrative Code Chapter 5

• Make drainage improvements; and any necessary related work

Town of Springfield Board Chair Jim Pulvermacher was at the council meeting, he reminded the commission of a letter he wrote with his concerns, and encouraged the city to work with the town. He also expressed concern about the eminent domain language. 

He told the council that residents of Springfield don’t want the expansion, and reminded the council of the 20 year agreement the town and city share. 

Cynthia Richson, town chair for the Town of Middleton thanked the council for removing the eminent domain language. Richson questioned the need for PAPI lights, stating the they looked like an upgrade, citing that they are typically used for larger planes with higher cockpits that what to fly a higher glide path. She asked if this should be in the Airport Master plan instead? She asked why not upgrade the VASI (Visual Approach Slope Indicator) lights?

Rich Morey, airport manager, commented that the VASI lights were being phased out, and said there are currently PASI lights at the airport that need upgraded. He added that the current system is 14 years old.

Richson also asked about the timing of the Airport Terminal purchase, for which Springfield citizen Pam Krill also asked clarification. Airport Commission Chair John said the idea was for the city to own the terminal and rent space. He added this is so that the city does not bear the financial burden of the airport by allowing the facility to bring in more revenue.

Richson suggested that the city purchase 8330 Forsythia St. as a protection zone for the south approach.

Citizens Jenny Pavlovic and Dave Bryce from the Town of Middleton both asked how wildlife would be affected by clearing runway approaches. Opitz replied that language in the resolution including wildlife, drainage and runway approaches would help get funding to conduct a study.

Morey said the assessments will give suggestions on ways to minimize the negative impact the airport could have on wildlife.

Steve Ziegler form the Town of Middleton said he was disappointed that the town held the public hearing during a time when it is difficult for people to gather. He then commented that in regard to wildlife, he was more concerned about “the biosphere than airport operations.”

The plan commission voted to pass the resolution on the Middleton City Council with a positive recommendation.

Abby Attoun Director of Planning & Community Development gave the commission an overview of the Pleasant View Park Apartments project in regard to a General Implementation Plan (GIP). She told the commission that the developer had gone above and beyond in regard to the GIP and listed the issues that have arisen in committee meeting and through public input. The list includes, traffic, blasting affects at PPD, sewage and stormwater. 

She said that the owner of PPD had the following contingencies before GIP rezoning takes place:

• City’s geotechnical consultant shall review and approve the developer’s slope stability study for the cliff including during and after construction

• City’s geotechnical consultant shall review the developer’s bluff reinforcement recommendations for conditions during and after construction

• The developer shall provide blasting plans to PPD and the property owner for review prior to SIP approval 

Jim Stopple, Madison Property Management told the commission he hoped they would approve it with contingencies at that night’s meeting. He said they are hoping to break ground in the summer.

Joe Lee from JLA Architects said he didn’t think there would be a problem meeting the contingencies and presented drawing to the plan commission.

Commission chair Kurt Paulsen noted that the height of the building would be 147 ft., and the current highest building in the city, the Wisconsin Trade Center, is 134 ft. tall. He said that although he favors density, he has heard concerns that the building is too tall, and added that the conceptual plan was not previously approved. 

Stopple told Paulsen that the upper levels cost less to construct and by building higher, they are able to offset the total cost of the building. He added that the increased height would increase the amount of greenspace on the site by 50 percent.

Commissioner Leif Hubbard, reiterated Paulsen’s comments. He stated that he thought some of the committee approvals have been reluctant or with contingencies. 

Mike Slavish, plan commissioner, said he thought the location was good for a project such as this and it blends in will. Commissioner Kitty Tyson stated that she thought the location was good for higher density and fit in the city’s envisioned transportation plan.

Stopple told the commission it would be difficult to revisit the height of the building now. Lee added that the height was based on consultation with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

Mayor Gurdip Brar asked what happened to the developer’s original plan for a six story building? Attoun said the option never got off the ground because of conservancy concerns and potential tree loss. 

Brar said he was most concerned on the impact to PPD, which has concerns regarding the project. He also stated that concerns had also been brought up by the golf course community, WRMC, and nearby condo residents. He also felt the project should include affordable housing.

The commission voted to deny the rezoning request and passed the request to the council with negative recommendation. Slavish and Tyson descented and Ramsey abstained after recusing himself from discussion from the beginning.

A Specific Implement Plan (SIP) for the same project was deferred, with Ramsey once again abstaining.





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